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Iron, which takes its English name from the old Anglo-Saxon and its symbol from the Latin, ferrum, was identified and used in prehistoric times. It is a very common element, fourth most abundant in the earth's crust. In addition, two of the ten most common compounds in the earth's crust are the two common oxides of iron, \(FeO\) and \(Fe_2O_3\).
In its pure form, iron is a silvery-white metal, distinguished by its ability to take and retain a magnetic field, and also dissolve small amounts of carbon when molten (thus yielding steel). Commercial refining of iron is based on the heating of \(Fe_2O_3\) or \(Fe_3O_4\) (magnetite) with a mixture of other substances in the high temperature environment of the blast furnace. The oxides are reduced to pure iron. In addition to hardening iron by adding small amounts of carbon and also some other metals to the molten iron, iron castings or forgings can be heat-treated to take advantage of the various physical properties of the different solid phases of iron.
Pure iron reacts readily with oxygen and moisture in the environment and corrodes destructively. Even alloys such as steel need protection by painting or some other coating to prevent structural failure over time.
Element 44 (named from the Latin, ruthenia, for Russia) was originally discovered in 1807 by the Polish chemist Sniadecki, but the claim from a relative unknown was not accepted by a Paris commission and he withdrew it. It was not until 1828 that Gottfried Osann claimed to have found three new elements in his platinum samples that interest in the metal increased. Although the he could not substantiate the claim, he did not withdraw it. In 1844 Karl Klaus showed that two of Osann's metals were not new elements at all, but the third he was able to isolate and characterize.
Ruthenium is a rare metal (less than 0.01 parts per million in the earth's crust). It is generally described as gray-white, hard and brittle. At room temperature it is resistant to virtually all acids. It's high melting point and brittle nature make casting difficult. Its chief commercial use is as a hardening agent in platinum jewelry.
Recently interest has grown in some compounds of ruthenium which possess the ability to convert visible light into a suitable energy source for splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen (for fuel). Work in this field is ongoing.
Discovered in 1803 by Smithson Tennant (most famous for his determination that diamond is just a form of carbon), osmium is a very dense, blue-white hard metal. Its name is taken from the Greek, osme, for "odor". The oxides of osmium emit highly toxic gases and form readily when the metal is exposed to air. Thus there are few commercial applications for osmium except as a minor alloying agent where it reduces frictional wear ("osmiroid" ball point pen tips, for example).
Most osmium is recovered as a by-product of the refining of platinum and nickel ores.
Like its immediate predecessors, element 108 (Hs), is of purely theoretical interest and has an extremely short half-life, decaying by spontaneous fission. It is so unstable, in fact, that it was not discovered until after element 109 had been positively confirmed.
The search for elements beyond uranium has occupied the attention of various groups of scientists around the world since the late 1940's. The principals involved hail from the laboratories at Berkeley, California, what was previously the Soviet Joint Institute for Nuclear Research at Dubna, and the Heavy-Ion Research Laboratory in Darmstadt, Germany.
Originally a committee of the IUPAC recommended that element 108 be named Hahnium, after a German scientist, Otto Hahn. That name met with some opposition and the name approved in August 1997 is Hassium, named for the German state of Hesse.
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